The Supreme Court granted bail to a retired police officer accused of murdering a prominent businessman and planting gelatin sticks on his vehicle.

The Court observed that the charge sheet prima facie does not indicate the involvement of the Appellant in the conspiracy to place gelatin sticks in the Scorpio vehicle of the businessman. Consequently, the Court decided that invoking the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004 (UAPA law) would be irrelevant, and its rigor would not be invoked while considering the Appellant's bail application.

With the further observation in that regard, High Court has noted that the charge sheet does not prima facie disclose that the appellant was involved in the conspiracy of planting gelatin sticks in the Scorpio vehicle…The said observations made by the High Court would in fact indicate that in the present facts, as against the role assigned to the appellant, invoking of the UAPA would pale into insignificance and the rigor of that law would not be applicable at this stage while considering the application of the appellant for bail”, the Bench comprising Justice A.S Bopanna and Justice P.S Narasimha observed.

Senior Advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Siddhartha Dave appeared for the Appellant, and Additional Solicitor General K.M Nataraj and S.V Raju appeared for the Respondent.

The Appellant was charged under Sections 120B, 201, 302, 364, and 403 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Section 25 of the Arms Act (AA) and Sections 16, 18 and 20 of the UAPA. The Appellant had filed for a grant of bail but was rejected by the Special Court. The High Court also dismissed the appeal. Aggrieved by the order of the High Court, the Appellant filed a Criminal Appeal before the Supreme Court.

The Respondents contended that the Appellant, a retired police officer, conspired with another senior officer (Co-accused) to plant gelatin sticks in a Scorpio Vehicle near a well-known businessman's residence. The Respondent also alleged the Appellant’s involvement in the murder of the businessman.

The Court observed that the High Court had considered the allegations against the Appellant in connection with the planting of gelatin sticks in the Scorpio vehicle. However, the Court noted that it was determined that there was no evidence to connect the Appellant with the co-accused in this regard. The Court noted that the charge sheet did not indicate that the Appellant was involved in the conspiracy to plant the gelatin sticks. The prosecution attempted to link the Appellant with the Scorpio vehicle and the gelatin sticks during the arguments. The Court held that the UAPA would not apply to the Appellant's bail application.

The Court noted, regarding the murder accusations, that the Appellant received a bag of money as payment for the murder, which was handed over at the P.S. Foundation Compound under the Appellant's management. The Court observed the sequence of events to establish the connection between the Appellant's and the co-accused's activities.

The Appellant claimed that the Ex-Home Minister of Maharashtra had given the co-accused an ultimatum to collect an amount of Rs. 100 Crores and hand it over within one week, failing which action would be taken against him. In this context, the meeting between the Appellant and the co-accused occurred. The Court held that a defence of such nature cannot be looked into at this stage and will be examined during the trial.

The Court noted that the circumstances alleged against the Appellant to contend that he was complicit in the murder are also matters of evidence that will be established during the trial by connecting the chain of circumstances to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Court concluded that the Appellant would have no influence on any further investigation in this case, as it is being handled by a different agency, the NIA. Additionally, The Court noted that there have been no reports of misconduct by the Appellant while out on bail.

“​​We are therefore of the opinion, that the appellant is to be released on bail subject to appropriate conditions being imposed by the trial court and the appellant diligently adhering to the said conditions and participating in the process of trial”, the Bench noted.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the Appeal and set aside the impugned order of the High Court.

Cause Title: Pradeep Rameshwar Sharma v National Investigating Agency & Anr. (2023 INSC 755)

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